As with any major software update you must consider the time to upgrade and plan accordingly. We would certainly not suggest upgrading the software midway through a major project or with deadlines looming. You should take care to backup any key data related to SOLIDWORKS- this includes the actual CAD files, Templates and standard documentation, shared data such as SOLIDWORKS Toolbox, and any databases associated with programs such as PDM or SOLIDWORKS Electrical.
You should also consider who you work with- i.e. suppliers and customers. SOLIDWORKS 2021 files cannot be opened in a fully editable format in older versions so this could hinder any collaborative projects you have with external parties. Also consider if your company operates over multiple sites, as you would want to schedule the upgrade to happen in a way that has the entire team updated at the same time. If you are running a floating/network license, you also need to update the Network License Manager and reactivate so that the client machines can retrieve a license. This is available via the download by running the “Server Products” option on the first screen.
The final consideration is any of the add-on products to SOLIDWORKS- i.e. PDM, PCB, Electrical etc. These products also need to be updated to be aligned with the SOLIDWORKS version and you may therefore need to back up the data and database, before installing the necessary server and client based programs. Due to this software being Server based you may need to co-ordinate the upgrade with your IT department to ensure access and access rights. Add-on products may extend beyond the SOLIDWORKS portfolio, and may be managed by a different supplier entirely as a 3rd party plug in. Check compatibility of these with SOLIDWORKS 2021 as you may need to either wait, or obtain a new version/license file. Solid Solutions have also created bespoke add-ins/programs for many of our customers- there may be a need to have these reconfigured for a new release. This may or may not carry an addition consultancy charge depending on whether the bespoke program carried its own support and subscription contract.
If you are using any of the SOLIDWORKS PDM Products (Manage, Professional or Standard) we would strongly encourage logging a support ticket with our team before you plan to undertake the upgrade. This will allow us to provide specific upgrade advice based on what we know about your implementation and communicate any key changes to System Requirements or Licensing Policies. Please note our support team are unable to carry out the upgrade for you, so if you are interested in using our services to plan, manage and carry out the upgrade please contact us for a quotation.
Whilst not feasible for all customers, setting up an isolated testing environment is encouraged. This will allow a single machine to be updated to the new version purely to test the key functions you rely on day to day. This could involve copying a dataset to work on in this isolated environment and ensuring these key functions are producing the end results you expect. Any differences could relate to a software function and so this would also be a chance to consult the new version documentation that is available in the SOLIDWORKS Help, under the "What's New" section.